By Tom Houghton, Candidate for State Senate
In The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes “the United States supports schools in Afghanistan because we know that education is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to build a country. Alas, we’ve forgotten that lesson at home. All across America, school budgets are being cut, teachers laid off and education programs dismantled”.
Kristof refers to education as the “escalator to opportunity” describing a house painter’s son who graduated as a salutatorian and became a lawyer. He then declares that the “escalator is now breaking down.”
With the failure of our Republican legislature in Harrisburg to honor our state Constitution by adequately providing for education funding this year, our public schools and universities are certainly feeling the brunt. These ideologues believe our Commonwealth should not be in the business of providing for an education. Unfortunately, our property tax and tuition payers will also suffer as ‘the beast is starved’ to satisfy Tea Party supporters — who ironically enough are property tax payers themselves.
This is not simply a matter of slashing funding due to hard times. Harrisburg’s majority party left almost a billion dollars of unexpected newly incoming revenues on the table as they slashed about as many dollars in education funding — saving these new revenues for a ‘rainy day.’ They also chose to give away hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks while also avoiding the natural gas severance tax.
Simply put, the killing of public education here in Pennsylvania is ideological and not budgetary.
Kristof further writes “The immediate losers are the students. In the long run, the loser is our country.”
Like the house painter’s son I am, the son of my late mother who spent a half century of her difficult life as a waitress, I owe my success to education. It was education that provided my “escalator” allowing me to also become an attorney and even serve a term in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives — an honor I will never forget. Keeping this escalator operating for others is what has driven me to enter into state politics. Any legislator who doesn’t feel the same is violating the oath taken upon being sworn in – to honor and defend our state Constitution.
Tom Houghton, a former state representative, is a Democratic candidate for state senate in the 9th state senate district. He lives in London Grove.